Is a 'meek' Modi sign of BJP's dwindling hold over Gujarat?
Gandhinagar, Nov 27: In politics, they say a day is enough to change everything. It has been more than three-and-a-half-years since Prime Minister Narendra Modi has left his home turf Gujarat to be a part of Lutyens' Delhi as he took over the reins of the country.
Politically, things have dramatically changed for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its own bastion, Gujarat. First and foremost, maverick Modi bhai is not Gujarat's chief minister anymore. He is the PM of India, who has gone far away to the national capital and busy taking care of the entire country.
Second, the discontentment among a wide section of the population, especially the Dalits, OBCs, farmers, small time traders, and Patils, to name a few groups, is pretty visible.
The opposition Congress is not wrong when it claims that in Gujarat "nobody is happy". Just days ahead of the state Assembly elections, scheduled on December 9 and 14, an air of hopelessness hangs over Gujarat, like the thick haze hanging over Delhi choking residents to death, literally.
Amid the gloomy signs, Modi hit the campaign trail in poll-bound Gujarat on Monday. It is sure going to be a hectic and most difficult campaign season for Modi since he became the PM of the country.
As the entire BJP machinery is heavily dependent on "Modi magic" to win votes across the country, the next few days will definitely test Modi as a "vote-winning machine" for the saffron party.
Can Modi once again help BJP give an empathetic victory in Gujarat? Or the worrying signs of times have already taken a toll on the BJP and the PM?
The saffron party too can see the unrest among the Gujaratis over social, political and economic issues. Keeping its ear to the ground, the BJP is taking things "slow and steady" instead of going "ballistic".
So, this time the posters of Modi are also taking a sombre line. Instead of the usual PM, whose arms are stretched out making promises galore and tearing apart the opposition with his criticism, a new poster of Modi is seen with folded hands in a namaskara gesture appealing to his Gujarati brothers and sisters to once again repose their trust in the BJP.
"When our homes are renovated don't we face inconvenience? Now, the entire nation is being renovated, so please bear with this and support BJP," reads the new poster of Modi, done by the BJP especially for the Gujarat polls.
Writing for The Economic Times, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, journalist, and author, stated that the new poster of Modi is a "subdued" one which his detractors "may wish to read as a rare meekness" in the PM.
The author-journalist wrote, "The unprecedented last-ditch effort by Modi is necessary because of the slippages post-2014. It is also a result of BJP's inability to challenge social stratification in Hindu society in the years it was working for the omnipresence of the Hindutva template.
"Consequently, caste fissures have resurfaced and in the absence of Muslims as the visible 'other', all-encompassing Hindu unity - which played a significant role in BJP victories since 1995 - is not visible. This will add to Modi's workload when he enters the battlefield."
Does Modi really look like a battle-weary commandant? Or, he still very much possesses the famous charisma of his to win over the crowd with his high-voltage speeches?
On Monday, when he attended a public gathering in Bhuj, the PM just a few minutes before addressing the crowd looked exhausted with numerous wrinkles clearly visible on his forehead--a sign of election-inducted tension.
However, once he stood up in front of the microphone, Modi spoke with his trademark energy to target his detractors, especially the Congress.
"I am grateful for all the kichad (muck) being thrown at me, after all, a lotus blooms only in muck, so, I don't mind if more is thrown at me," he stated, indicating that the Opposition's attempts to tarnish his image over the demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) are futile.
Then the PM added that "Gujarat is my soul and mother. My relationship with you is that of equality since you call me brother", highlighting the cardinal truth that Modi is the "son of the soil" and he understands the pulse of his voters well.
If what we had just witnessed in Bhuj is what Modi is going to do across Gujarat, then expect "fireworks" once again from the PM.
Be it the demonetisation, the GST or the angst of Dalits and OBCs, Modi is going to directly confront the Congress in his "soul" Gujarat.